Mostafa: So, let me ask, what’s the main benefit of METER Group’s SKALA dry module’s ability to provide in-process, real-time water activity during the drying of cannabis?
Jeremy: That’s a great question. Basically, it takes away the touch and feel approach, and replaces it with the science of drying and curing. That individual or those individuals who are responsible for making the determination of when something should or shouldn’t come down, the vast majority of those people are basing [their decisions] on touch and feel and historical working knowledge. Basing it on the science really elevates the quality.
Mostafa: And have you seen in terms of ROI, have you been able to quantify increased yields just through the ability to really nail those water activities?
Jeremy: Yeah. We were already using the water activity device and we absolutely loved it. And when [METER] said, “Hey, we also have this other platform. You guys should really do it,” they really focused on increased production. And we have increased our yields. But for us, the intention of this technology, the primary focus, has always been to elevate the quality and really deter microbial growth and spread. And we’ve been able to accomplish both goals. We’ve overall increased the moisture in our products by 3.7%, which increases quality, protects terpenes, provides a better product. And while avoiding any significant mold event.
Mostafa: I know one of the more dangerous molds is Aspergillus. Was that that ever an issue for you, and since deploying have you been able to prevent the threat of dangerous molds?
Jeremy: I absolutely would say that the water activity and the SKALA system is a great tool to prevent those. It’s unfortunate when you do find Aspergillus, but the AQUALAB Water Activity device has helped us make game-time decisions on leaving something in the room a little bit longer.
It also helps us prioritize and see if stuff that’s been taken down needs to be continuously burped or, if enough fresh air is flowing in through those bins, and if they’re retaining that moisture.
It was within that threshold – that kind of the danger zone — that accuracy with water activity level is most conducive to preventing microbial growth. So absolutely – yes, it’s a fantastic tool, as a preventative and a proactive device and technology to really combat those microbial issues that most cultivators face at some point in time or another.
We were having some microbial issues. That was the genesis, why I was doing the research for the water activity device in the first place. During our first summer in production, we had a relatively wet summer and during the monsoon season we were having some microbial issues. So, after some due diligence on what’s out there, we found that measuring water activity really helped us determine a lot of things from both an organization and coordination standpoint.
It enabled us to create a scheduling process for what gets trimmed first.
We have the finished flowers or the curing flowers. Once it’s brought in down from the dry area, we put them in the bins, where they are stacked up in a climate-controlled inventory cage. Before working with METER, the trim managers were just coming in and grabbing the oldest bins first.
And the problem there was that the oldest bins weren’t necessarily the ideal bins to be trimming. Some were a bit wet, and other times, there were more recent plants that just dried earlier.
By using the water activity device, we were able to create a trim schedule and start collecting that data, and, for example, determining everything from harvest date 11/9 is still super wet, so we should we probably let that go a little bit longer. And so that’s how the conversations and the in the increased collaboration into the SKALA platform developed – from those early conversations about water activity and drying.
We soon realized it was a great way for us to have more consistency, more redundancy, and less of the art and feel of, “yeah, I guess this looks right.”
Before SKALA, our head of cultivation would go in and snap a bud off of the stock where it felt right when he pinched it. And so, we would just go ahead and take down half a million dollars’ worth of product based on that. It was really, really key for us to get rid of those practices and move in more of a scientific and logical manner where we could create SOPs and redundancy and not have to rely on some of that subjective analysis.
Mostafa: Explain a little bit more about the benefits a scientific approach over touch and feel.
Jeremy: The subjective approach is based on “oh, this looks and feels a certain way and because I’ve grown this strain before, that it is good to go, right?” And while there is value in such historical understanding, METER’s drying tech eliminates the need for guesswork. It’s more systematic and allows us to use a more scientific approach that can be replicated across different facilities.
Mostafa: It really is very cool stuff. So, one of the things METER brings to the table is several PhD level scientists with skills ranging from drying expertise to data science, to environmental biophysics, and physiology. Could you talk a little bit about how their professional services team has helped you improve processes based on scientific methods?
Jeremy: Absolutely. What I just mentioned about the ability creates those systematic SOPs based on the data and on the science keeps us from being reliant on one or two key individuals with the historical working cannabis and cultivation knowledge. METER has really allowed us to expand our operations to multi-facility. We’re actually in the middle of an expansion project right now for our second production facility.
I would say that, yes, the professional services are really helpful and, in a non-invasive or abrasive way, allowing us to see or understand the value in of these insights without having to be reliant on one or two key team members. Also, it allows those one or two key members to oversee the operation and management of the platform and of the device to achieve that kind of target range for maximum quality, maximum safety, organization, and coordination of the product as it moves through the different production cycles in the facility.
METER Group’s team has been absolutely key, helping us realize that there is this data-driven, scientific basis for these things, breaking it down into simple terms that even a dummy like me can understand – and showing us the range we need to be in. The predictive model tells what range it’ll be in at a specific time.
And, once in the bins, the scheduling and organization tools that the devices and the technology provide, with the support of METER’s team, has been instrumental in allowing us to achieve our goals.
Jeremy Basha is the VP of Sales for Sonoran Roots Cannabis located in Mesa and Tempe, Arizona. Sonoran Roots takes great pride in cultivating premium quality cannabis including top sellers: MAC Cap Cut, Joel’s Lemonade, and Grateful Breath. Jeremy has been key to the growth of Sonoran Roots and embraces technology to advance the cultivation and dry/cure of craft cannabis.